Truth In Our Words
Tonight, we are going to look at the truth that comes from our words. This one is going to challenge all of us, and I do mean all of us. The power of our words reaches way past what we think. When we say something kind, that person will carry that blessing with them for weeks and when they get stressed, they will think back to the kind words you said. On the flip side of that coin, when we cause hurt with our words, that hurt will also be carried for a long time. Usually the hurt lasts longer than the blessing when it comes to the impact of our words on other people. Tonight, we are going to talk about three aspects of our speech and see what the Bible has to say about our speech.
Let’s start with the “easy” topic first, lying.
Lies speak to the content of our heart.
We have all played the what-if game in regard to white lies and lies to protect feelings. The truth is that lies always have issues. Even when we try to lie about what someone is wearing to not hurt their feelings only to have our friend rock that train wreck of an outfit in public and they get embarrassed. Who did we help with that lie? Really just ourselves. The truth is really the best policy, even when it’s a hard truth.
Let’s look at two passages of Scripture that talk about lies. First let’s look at Colossians 3:9.
Lies are part of our old selves. Once we accept Jesus, we are new creations and we should have new behaviors as well as we work through the process of being more like Jesus. I’m not going to stand here and tell you the old behaviors don’t pop up often, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome those behaviors. We don’t have to be who we were. Lying to other people is not who we are in Jesus, it’s who we were in our own weakness. When we develop a pattern or truth, people will respect us more and they can take us at our word.
Let’s look at Ephesians 4:25 next. This passage tells us why lying is dangerous, because when we lie to other believers, we are really just lying to ourselves. Scripture talks about how we are one body, this is kind of an abstract concept, to make it more tangible, let’s look at it this way. When we are around other believers, we are still very different people, but our likes and behaviors should be similar since we are trying to honor Jesus with our lives. For example, we all like different types of music when we are riding around, but as a believer, we all like to worship. We all have different gifts to use in school, but when we are with other believers, we want to use those gifts to help other people. When we are together, we have a similar mission and that mission is hurt when we lie to other believers.
So, when we lie, it shows the content of our heart. If we have a pattern of lies and deception, then we must check the condition of our heart. Is it new, or are we still operating with an old heart and are just really good at playing church?
Let’s look at the second topic for tonight and this one will get a little less comfortable.
Gossip is ungodly!
Gossip is simple to explain, if you are talking about someone in a bad way, and they aren’t there to defend themselves, you are gossiping. It’s hurtful, it betrays trust, and it has no place in the life of a believer, and yet it happens so much. We have to be careful that we don’t air out someone’s business as a “Prayer request” when in reality we are gossiping. There are ways to share concerns without gossiping. I was sitting at a soccer game last night and a group of 6 students were standing almost on my chair and most of the game they had their back to the field, and they were talking about person after person. About how they looked, and how they did this or that. They spend almost 90 minutes gossiping about people and let me tell you, it didn’t make the first one of them seem better for their mean words.
Sometimes people gossip as a way of dealing with their own insecurities which is sad for everyone. They feel like they need to raise themselves up and since they don’t know how to do that, they tear others down instead. The Bible tells us over and over that we are to build each other up, to carry each other’s burdens, to not be conformed to the patterns of this world. Guys we need to stop this behavior and see it as the sin that it is. If the person isn’t there to speak into the conversation you don’t need to talk about them, unless…you are saying how beautiful she is, or how smart she is, or how kind he was to the freshmen at school. If you are building someone up with your words, they don’t have to be there. If you are not and the person isn’t there… stop talking.
Let’s look at what Proverbs 11:13 says about gossip. Typically passages in the book of Proverbs are pretty straight forward. You don’t need a ton of contextual clues to understand what the author was saying. In this passage, it’s pretty clear. A gossip put secrets out there they aren’t theirs to share, but a trustworthy person keeps secrets in confidence. I think the reason people share other people’s secrets is the attention they get when sharing the secret. Sometimes people share that secret to really hurt the other person and that is a whole different level, but other times, they just want people to want or need them, even if it’s just for information. What we have to realize is that talking about other people or sharing other people’s secrets stands in direct opposition of how God tells us to treat other people. Scripture says we are to treat our neighbor like we would want to be treated and I can say with total confidence that NOBODY wants to be gossiped about. So as a follower of Jesus, trying to shed the old and live in the new, we need to pull gossip up by the roots and throw it out of our lives!
This last point is going to get even closer to home as I was challenged with this one myself. There is another aspect of our language that doesn’t honor God and it’s one that many people actually pride themselves in.
Sarcasm is unnecessary in the life of a believer.
Most everyone uses sarcasm in their daily speech. There are t-shirts made that talk about how sarcasm is your love language. The reality is that we don’t often realize the impact sarcasm can have on the person it’s aimed at. While we say sarcasm is innocent, there is typically some truth to whatever the snarky comment is that we just said. Sarcasm in itself is insincere, it’s a way of us using humor to push off something that has hurt or irritated us. We say it jokingly, but with the tone of our words removed, it would probably sound quite rude. Therein lies the problem. If we are being sarcastic over text messages or snapchat, then the person on the other side has no idea of the tone we are using. And while you may argue the person knows you well enough to know when you are serious, the fact that your words need a disclaimer, should really make us think about what we are saying.
Sarcasm gives us the chance to be lightheartedly hateful. Humor builds us up and draws us closer, sarcasm is humor that does the opposite of that. I can remember vividly an interaction I had with a student almost 15 years ago. I was tuning my guitar before a worship set and a student was sitting in the room. This student was notoriously unpleasant. I had a string pop while I was tuning and he said, “That sounded great.” Sarcasm!! To which I hotheadedly responded, “Says the kid sitting in a chair instead of playing an instrument.” Which was cruel, hurtful, and the second after I said it, I regretted it. I was flustered with the busted string and the timing of his sarcasm, but I lost control of my own tongue and shot back with my own sarcastic barb. I had just driven a wedge between me and that student that would take a long time to undo and all it took was one sarcastic comment in response to his own sarcasm. Neither of us were right, and we were both wrong and hurt by the interaction. That is the danger of sarcasm.
Let’s look at Colossians 4:6. This passage tells us that our speech must always be seasoned with salt. That’s some flowery language for the fact that our speech must be easy on the ears. We don’t need to have the sharp taste of sarcasm on our words to others, it doesn’t help either of us. My interaction with that student was not seasoned with grace, it was honestly absent of grace.
Let’s look at James 3:5-9. This is perhaps the best-known passage when it comes to the power of our tongue and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m horrified of some of the imagery used here to describe the darkness that our speech and words can contain. Our tongue is such a small piece of our body and our speech is a small part of our personality, but both have disproportionate power to destroy. We, as followers of Jesus, need to be super mindful of our words, their impact on others, and the reflection that our speech has on the person of Jesus!